Inside the Capitol

Monday, January 12, 2009

1-16 Tips for Surviving Inauguration Day

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Presidential inaugurations always are big deals. From all reports, this year's inaugural will top them all in terms of numbers of people and events.
Upwards of 2 million are expected at this inaugural. It no longer is a one-day event. It is spread out over four days. The first of the balls will be held this evening, Jan. 16. It will be a "Welcome to Washington" black tie gala at Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol.
The galas continue, over 70 of them, through inauguration night when 10 official balls and 29 other galas will be held.
To help handle the millions of visitors, the inaugural committee will have a team of 18,000 volunteers. That's more than three times the number needed for any other inauguration. It wasn't hard to find them. Over 60,000 applied.
The number of security forces will be incredible. For the first time military personnel will supplement the Secret Service and officers from 57 other local and federal agencies. Total military involved will be over 11,000. District of Columbia police will number 8,000.
For those of you who plan to attend, and who haven't left already, here are some suggestions. You may already have read or heard much of it but this comes from experience. My wife and I attended the 1993 Clinton inaugural, which was said to be the largest up to then.
If you are going to attend the swearing in, the parade and a ball on Inauguration Day, you must be in reasonably good shape. You will need to walk almost everywhere. Roads near the ceremonies will be blocked. Taxis will be almost impossible to find.
The Metro subway system is the only way to get close. And that only gets you close. The Capitol area is very spread out. The battle to get on Metro train cars is vicious. Doors often jam, and trains don't move, because of the number of people trying to squeeze on.
It will be cold and you will be in it for many hours, standing up. Average Jan. 20 high temperature is mid-30s. It sometimes rains and occasionally snows.
President William Henry Harrison gave an hour and 45 minute inaugural speech in the snow and died of pneumonia a month later. And that was back when inaugurals were held on March 4.
For us desert rats, unless you grew up going to Green Bay, Buffalo or New England football games, you are going to be very uncomfortable. Buy some long johns.
The swearing in ceremony begins about 11:30 so the oath can be taken at high noon. A band begins playing at 10 a.m., unless their instruments freeze.
Unless you are a member of Congress or in the president's cabinet, you won't be able to see what is going on. You'll be standing in a roped off area down the Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial. There are loud speakers and this year, for the first time, big screens for you to watch it on.
My advice is that if you can move, get out of there. Find a little restaurant along Pennsylvania Avenue to sit down, get warm and have a bite to eat.
That's the street the parade is on. People begin lining up at 7 a.m. so it will be difficult to move there too. The parade supposedly starts at 2 p.m. But it doesn't. The president and Congress go to Statuary Hall, in the Capitol Building, after the swearing in, for lunch and they won't finish on time.
There is a very long list of items you can't have during the swearing in and parade. It includes all those items you can't take on a plane or into a ballgame plus strollers, backpacks, thermoses, signs or poles. The list also should include children and old people.
The balls are equally crowded. Don't plan on dancing, eating, drinking, checking your coat or going to the powder room. All are available but inaccessible.
If you check your coat, you won't get it back when you want it and maybe not at all. If you go to the powder room, you may not get back in. But it's a great place to see and be seen
FRI, 1-16-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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